In this three-part conversation, Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff shares insights on the IPO process from an investor relations perspective. In our final installment, we discuss the next steps a company should take after becoming public.
The Podium: Hello, Maureen. Thank you for joining us again. In today’s discussion, we will focus on the actions companies should take after the initial public offering has priced. We imagine there is much to accomplish.
MW: There certainly is. Hopefully, at this point, a newly public company already has completed the many messaging and infrastructure tasks we discussed in our previous conversations. Those items include having in place a completed IR website, corporate communications policy and training in public company employee protocol, Regulation FD and public speaking. Other items include selecting vendors for various investor relations activities, such as IR website hosting and news distribution.
In this three-part conversation, Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff shares insights on the IPO process from an investor relations perspective. In this second conversation, we discuss preparing for life as a public company after the registration statement has been filed.
The Podium: Hello, Maureen. Thank you for joining us again. In today’s discussion, we will focus on the actions companies should take after they file the registration statement but before they price. What’s a good first step for them?
MW: At this stage, a pre-IPO company has been preparing the registration filing for several months. It is now very important to concentrate on having the investor relations function ready to hit the ground running as soon as the stock prices. One of the first things to focus on is the IR website. It needs to go live on the day of the IPO. There are many cost-effective providers that will host that section of the company’s website.
In this three-part conversation, Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff shares insights on the IPO process from an investor communications perspective. In this initial conversation, we discuss preparing for life as a public company before the registration statement has been filed.
The Podium: Why do some companies start preparing for an IPO well in advance?
MW: Planning for an IPO in advance actually leads to a much smoother process and greater success after the IPO. Because the registration process is so intensive and time-consuming, it’s a really good idea to begin thinking and acting like a public company before filing the S-1, S-11 or other relevant registration statement. When you look at the IPOs that have made smooth transitions to the public markets, they are most often those that began the long-term transformation to being a public company very early on.
The Podium: Can you provide an example of how companies should start thinking like a public entity far in advance?
By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner, Sharon Merrill Associates
When the SEC last month charged First Solar’s former head of investor relations with violating its fair disclosure rules, the announcement gave more than a few IROs pause. And for good reason. Lawrence Polizzotto paid a $50,000 fine for the violation. Although corporate IROs and the financial press have focused on the settlement with Polizzotto, perhaps more critical for public companies is the SEC’s treatment of First Solar itself.
Rather than charge the company separately, the SEC said it decided to forego corporate enforcement because of First Solar’s “extraordinary cooperation.” This included the company self-reporting the violations to the SEC and its “environment of compliance,” which First Solar developed through its disclosure committee and additional Reg FD training for employees managing the company’s public disclosure.
But how many public companies are actively training their staff in Reg FD, insider trading or even the general responsibilities that come with working for a public company? For example, while instruction against insider trading is something every public company should be providing, there are numerous examples of public filers whose employees claimed they did not know they were violating insider trading laws. Many companies expect their managers and reporting staff to understand what it means to be a public company employee, but may not take the time to teach it. And if it is taught, the training may consist of just a single session right before the IPO – perhaps never to be offered again. Continue reading
By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner
Companies planning to go public need to be able to hit the ground running on the day of the IPO pricing with an investor relations program. In order to prepare, Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff provides tips on what to do before and after the S-1 filing in the videos below. Continue reading
For months leading up to your S-1 filing, you probably have been singularly focused on creating that massive tome. You have spent significantly more time with your lawyers and auditors than with your own family — and you cannot even begin to imagine a time when you won’t be spending every waking moment with your bankers. So now that you’ve left the long nights (and great food spreads) at the financial printers behind, it’s time to focus on investor relations. You need to hit the ground running with IR as soon as your company prices its offering, so here are 10 “to do” items before then:
1) Develop your IR website. The IR website must be ready to go live on the day of your IPO pricing. It is most cost-effective to hire an IR website hosting provider, which will develop your site and aggregate content such as news releases, SEC filings and stock data. You also need to prepare additional content for your site such as “Frequently asked Questions,” management biographies and fact sheets. Your website is arguably the most important vehicle you will have to communicate with investors, so make sure it has everything that investors need and expect.
On January 4th, the first business day of the new decade, Dow Jones VentureSource released figures suggesting that 2010 will be a stronger year for IPOs. They reported that eight companies completed public offerings in 2009, raising $904 million. This was a 64% increase from the $551 million generated through seven IPOs in 2008.
Looking ahead, VentureSource pointed to the 25 venture-backed companies that are currently in IPO registration as a sign that the market will improve as this year unfolds. The larger attendance and stronger sense of optimism at the most recent Deloitte Tech-Venture IPO Bootcamp, where I spoke on IPO investor relations, suggests the same thing.
So if the proverbial IPO window does open wider in 2010, a good number of venture-backed companies probably will jump through. This will send them into the hectic time of pre-IPO preparations.
Like skilled gymnasts or freestyle skiers, some of these companies will stick the landing. They’ll see good liquidity and strong underlying demand when their shares begin trading. Others will lose a few style points and generate only a tepid response from investors. For the underperformers, the leap into the public markets will conclude with a painful face plant. Continue reading